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Pussy Riot: Riot Days

at Summerhall

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Legendary Russian activists start a riot in Edinburgh.

Image of Pussy Riot: Riot Days

In September 2017 Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina released her memoir Riot Days. This book is the basis for the multimedia punk/theatre/gig/documentary hybrid from the Russian activist group. Pussy Riot are known for their protests, activism and their championing of LGBT and women’s rights and witnessing such a legendary group live in The Dissection Room of Summerhall promises to be a chaotic and interesting experience.

Support this evening comes from Glasgow band The Ninth Wave. The four-piece recently put out the record Never Crave Attention. This evening they do a great job of grabbing the attention of the audience. The Ninth Wave sound like a post punk electro pop band, (think Pornography era The Cure mixed with early Human League) but they subvert their influences with the depth and originally of their songs. It’s a short and sharp support set and one which goes over well.

Maria Alyokhina has gone to great lengths to get to Edinburgh. She defied a travel ban and her enthusiasm to perform this evening is obvious from the get-go. She is joined onstage by Kiryl Masheka (actor, singer), Nastya AWOTT (actor, singer, saxophone) and Maxim AWOTT  (keyboards, drums). The show begins with an intense droning saxophone sound over a pulsating beat. Then Maria Alyokhina enters the stage with vigour and energy. The passion and pure unabashed intensity continues throughout the duration of the performance. Maria and Kiryl narrate an abridged version of Riot Days, whilst the the other two band members create forceful beats and electric rhythms. It is truly an assault on the ears and eyes.

A screen is to the back of the stage. It shows documentary footage of Pussy Riot as they prepare for their most famous protest at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Maria’s words are translated into English and projected above the footage. Her words are defiant, personal and cut straight to the point. The anger and aggression is bombastic and bold and the audience lap it up.

Riot Days feels like an eclectic multimedia spoken word performance. It is pure punk rock anarchy and filled with attitude and passion. The show itself lasts just under an hour and the four performers exert enough energy to power a million fringe shows. It truly is an electrify and energising experience.

Pussy Riot are all over Summerhall this August. As well as presenting Riot Days, there is an exhibition at the venue curated by Tamsyn Challenger called Free The Pussy! The exhibition features work from Yoko Ono, Jamie Ried and Billy Childish and many other artists who have all responded to the imprisonment of Pussy Riot after their famous protest in 2012.